Studying for the 2020 AP Biology Test
AP Biology can be an intimidating course: it is famous for the breadth of knowledge that its students must learn, but what separates it from a regular biology course is the depth of information that a student is expected to know. The 2020 AP Biology exam will be markedly different from previous years’ exams, so it is important to study accordingly. In this blog, we will offer some practical and actionable suggestions for studying for this year’s AP Biology exam.
1. Familiarize yourself with the changes to this year’s AP exam.
Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the College Board recently announced that this year’s AP Biology exam will be online, 45 minutes in length, and consist entirely of free-response questions. Trevor Packer, head of the College Board’s AP program, recently tweeted that all AP tests this year will be open book and open note and will test “thematic understandings” instead of “simple factual recall.” Also, this year’s AP Biology exam will only cover units 1 – 6. Unit 7 (Natural Selection) and Unit 8 (Ecology) will not be tested.
You can view a complete list of changes to all AP exams here.
2. Study actively.
Resist the urge to study passively, such as simply rereading your notes or reviewing lecture slides. Instead, find ways you can study actively (read: effectively). One way to do so is to attempt the multiple choice and short answer questions at the end of each chapter in your biology textbook. These exercises will be a very good litmus test (sorry, could not resist) of whether you know the material in a given chapter well enough to proceed to the next unit.
3. Use flash cards or quizlet as needed.
If you’re having trouble learning certain concepts, find an effective way to commit to memory these basics. Flash cards and Quizlet can be great tools for aiding memorization. However, it’s also important to know what you to need to memorize. It isn’t necessary to memorize, for example, all twenty amino acids, but it is important to know that differences in these twenty amino acids stem from differences in their r-groups. Recognizing what you need to know and what you don’t will make studying for the AP Biology exam less disorienting.
4. Nail down the basics.
Know your macromolecules, cell parts and functions inside and out. Know photosynthesis and cellular respiration well enough to give a mini lecture on it. The same goes for mitosis, meiosis, and Mendelian genetics. These are some of the ‘big ideas’ that you can expect to see on the AP Biology exam.
5. Study free response questions on past AP Biology exams (from 1999 – present) here.
Focus on the most recent year’s questions first and work your way backwards until you get to 2012.
6.Check out the Marks Education blog after April 5
Check our blog for updates on any new announcements made by the College Board including the types of free response questions that will appear on the 2020 exam.
For more information about changes to the 2020 AP exams, check out our blog post on the topic here.
If you would like help as you prepare for the AP Biology exam, check out the bios of our experienced AP Biology tutors here: Dan Bloss, Lance McNeil, and Ellie Koo